Not Extreme To The Second Power, But Close Enough
There's a lot to like about the Extreme II, and it's good to see SanDisk leveraging its unique strengths to create an enthusiast-oriented offering. Moving units in the retail space isn't just about selling more drives; getting the message out to raise SanDisk's profile is probably even more important to the company. If the Extreme II is a success, the benefits will no doubt go beyond selling a few more boxed SSDs.
With that in mind, it's helpful that the Extreme II represents itself assertively in the hand-to-hand knife fight that is high-performance storage. Is it the fastest of the fast? Probably not. It is fast enough to do battle amongst that esteemed company? We sure think so. And it's hard not to like the idea of Marvell's '9187 controller with Toggle-mode NAND and an emulated-SLC twist. nCache seems a lot like what OCZ has been doing with its Vertex 4/450 and Vector drives, at least on a spiritual level, if not on a technical one. SanDisk and OCZ are both looking for advantages anywhere they can find them, and their respective solutions add value in a segment where innovation is increasingly hard to come by.
The Extreme II isn't very fancy-looking. But it's fast and has the cachet that comes from a NAND fabricator's SSD. Samsung, Intel, and Micron/Crucial have reputations based in large part on their engineering and validation, but also from the fact that they're responsible for what is arguably the most important ingredient in an SSD: the flash itself.
More competition from SanDisk is going to put more pressure on the vendors already left in the lurch by higher material costs. The Extreme II is just another evidentiary exhibit that the SSD producers at the bottom of the food chain are on borrowed time. Even as solid-state drive shipments increase year-over-year, the harsh reality is that companies like SanDisk are already in the driver's seat. The more precariously-positioned firms are going to be along for the ride. When push comes to shove, who can undercut a NAND manufacturer that builds its own SSDs?
We'd have a hard time naming every SSD manufacturer, and the average enthusiast familiar with storage probably couldn't name more than a few. But there's a good chance that Intel, Crucial, and Samsung are on that list. At the end of the day, maybe what SanDisk wants most is to be included in the conversation.